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2015 was the first Year of Pinballs for us. We made four acquisitions of games before year's end, and met several really nice people from the DFW pinball community. Our "Gold Wings" game was presented at the 2015 Texas Pinball Fest in the midst of its restoration, and managed to survive 369 games that weekend without any serious issues!

Gold Wings (Gottlieb, 1986)

This game needed a lot of work when we picked it up from Craigslist. At this time, we have cleaned the playfield with melamine foam & Novus 2, waxed the playfield, touched up cracked & chipped paint on the playfield with acrylic paint, replaced the ramp and some of the plastics, did the Gottlieb Ground Mod, replaced various capacitors & resistors & fuses, replaced all the bridge rectifiers, cleaned the flipper mechanisms, replaced all the rubbers and acquired three shiny new balls, and have tried to clean up the cabinet (and keep it clean). After about six months, we put in a new control board from Fred Swemmer which helped us hear the sound for the first time since the second or third time we ever played it.

However, our joy was short-lived after about 5 weeks when more electrical "gremlins" manifested which are preventing us from enjoying this game at all. Symptoms first started to show when the ball would not eject into the shooter lane to start the game. Eventually, it got so bad that none of the sound nor displays would come on; only the general illumination. After replacing various chips on the Swemmer board, the displays (and occasionally sound) are running again, but the ball still won't come to the shooter lane nor will the flippers flip. There is still the possibility that we need to re-pin all the crimp connections (or replace them with solder joints) and replace/upgrade the electrical connectors with non-obsolete parts.

Once the electronics are back in order, we intend to continue the playfield and cabinet restoration effort, replace the T-bar moulding around the edge, refinish the side rails (that are worn down from people's hands), and make gold powder-coated legs and experiment with the color scheme (e.g adding highlights) on some parts of the cabinet. Paul Urbanus has managed to disassemble the ROM code for this game (which was newly sourced from FlipProjets.fr after PROM1 was found to have gone bad), and I would like to add a feature that allows the lanes to be changed by using the flipper buttons as so many other games allow you to do.

During the 2015 Texas Pinball Fest, game designer John Trudeau came around and signed our temporary "translight" and one of the crappy old plastics. He liked our "custom" translight; since our original one got cracked only days before the Fest (not to mention attempted to be cleaned with rubbing alcohol only to discover that rubbed the artwork right off), we printed a new graphic on regular glossy paper using a wide-format printer. This was actually a big improvement, since the original translight graphic was really dingy and faded (not to mention the usual complaint among pinheads about Gottlieb's 1980s artwork being terribly cheesy).

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World Cup Soccer 1994 (Bally)

This was an acquisition we made at TPF 2015. We got the game in much better condition than Gold Wings was, but have still found reasons to do lots of maintenance work on it. It took Stephen about nine months of ownership before finally achieving one of the top five high scores on this particular unit since its last factory reset.

It stays clean, and we monitor the LEDs for proper operation constantly. The motor under the spinning soccer ball has been replaced, and the leg bolt plates were painstakingly replaced so that the game is much more stable on its legs. The "goalie guy" was reinforced with natural latex, milk jug plastic, and gorilla glue in order to stave off cracking that was occurring around his middle. Epoxy was poured through the original screw holes since the original plastic there was starting to come off in chunks and he was not staying properly mounted to the switch mechanism. After drilling new holes through the epoxy, he will stay firmly attached and free of cracks for years to come.

The work on the goalie came in handy ahead of TPF 2016, where this game was being constantly played, especially by children. The flipper mechs were also cleaned thoroughly. Unfortunately the ball trough has become bad at recognizing when balls had drained, and balls began to get stuck in the goal trough probably due to an obstruction after transporting the game back home, so it needs a little bit more attention before it's ready to be played once again.

Once the "fixes" are done, we plan on adding some "enhancements" including an upgraded sound system, fancier ball ramps, and so on.

King Pin (Gottlieb, 1973)

In August 2015, Stephen took a trip to rescue this game from a carport in rural Oklahoma. It came with a pretty decent backglass (except where the guy in the drawing clearly emitted toxic fart gas that took away a lot of the paint in that area :-P), a really nice playfield (except for a couple really worn-down spots and tons of ball swirls, but NO PLANKING!!!), and tonnes of mouse poop and creepy crawly things (either dead or alive). The cabinet paint is also in really sad shape.

To this day, the whole machine has not yet been turned on. It's a long process. For a few nights every so often for about seven weeks after the purchase, all the mouse poop and other "goodies" were vacuumed out of the cabinet, and it was heavily sterilized with a hospital-grade cleaning agent. After this work was done, every single nut, bolt, solenoid, coil sleeve, wiper dial, circuit board, score reel, and everything else in the head unit was cleaned or replaced, adjusted, and perfectly calibrated. The head unit was tested in mid-December 2015 and, after a minor adjustment to the head unit's tilt switch, was found to work perfectly. (Thanks to a couple of our friends who also happen to own this same game; we just did a temporary head swap.)

The playfield mechanics are about 30% cleaned now, with plenty of new coil sleeves and Bakelite pieces for the flippers ready to be dispatched when the time comes. The relay board lives at Dallas Makerspace awaiting just as thorough of a cleaning, while the cabinet is at our house awaiting paint restoration (probably involving custom decal work).

Yukon (Williams, 1971)

Stephen picked this game up right before Christmas 2015 as a gift for Stacy. We both enjoyed the "Klondike" version of this game at TPF 2015 and had been looking for one ever since. It came to us barely playable, but by unfreezing the ball count unit and the score reset mechanism, and cleaning the 10,000-point score reel, it played well enough.

The playfield, after working it over with some melamine foam, looks in pretty good shape and plays pretty quickly. The cabinet art is also in poor shape, but not quite as bad as King Pin. The mechanisms throughout the game, especially on the relay board, were extremely dirty upon acquisition, and in fact, two petrified mice were removed from under the relay board during cleaning. At this point, the mechanisms in the head unit and most on the relay board have been thoroughly cleaned. In the process, Stephen learned first-hand about why it is important to have two screws to hold down the solenoid coil stop behind the score reels. It will be exciting to see this game run faster and more fun as it gets cleaned out.

Haunted House (Gottlieb, 1982)

We had a lot of fun playing this game (especially Stephen) at Pinballz Arcade in Austin back in 2015, and we had the opportunity to snag one as our first pin purchase of 2016 for a reasonable price. The game would not boot but the cabinet and playfield were in pretty nice condition (except the backglass which has about 2/3 peeled off). Unfortunately, the root of the booting problem is a bunch of corrosion from the battery, which Stephen spent about two weeks trying to repair by carefully reflowing traces, making jumper wires, and installing new components in place of ones that had potentially been compromised. The solenoids and fuses have all been tested and verified as the correct values.

Unfortunately, at this time, there is still a problem with the reset area of the board because the reset signal never asserts itself as HIGH, thus the game's CPU never comes out of reset. Despite having spent two weeks rebuilding this part of the board, it still seems to misbehave. Thanks to Paul Urbanus (co-writer of the TI-99 game "Parsec", of which the Urbites are named after him), we have an LT-Spice model & simulation of the behavior of the Gottlieb System 80 reset circuitry and will be able to find out exactly what the fault on the board is. Hopefully after doing this, there won't be anything else wrong and we can simply enjoy our game!

Galaxy (Stern, 1980)

This game came free to us with purchase of Haunted House above. It too would not boot, and there were some pretty gnarly mods made to its original fuse board, so Stephen spent a whole evening replacing it and crimping brand new Molex trifurcon connectors. Well, that got really loud static coming from the speakers upon the next boot, but still no game. Stephen also replaced some burnt components relating to the upper left slingshot, including the coil and parts on the driver board.

Next up on the agenda for this game is to run through the usual electrical debugging procedure for Stern/Bally games of this era, then clean it up cosmetically at Dallas Makerspace, enjoy it for a little bit, and then sell it. While Galaxy is a real looker, and this one is in beautiful shape, the game play really doesn't keep us captivated a whole lot. The way we instinctively react to a pinball coming near a flipper makes the "skill shots" a bit easy for us to sink on this game. (On the other hand, one game where Stephen has a hard time making any of the shots is "Full Throttle" by Heighway Pinball.)

Pin*bot (Williams, 1986)

This one was really Stacy's idea; Stephen didn't understand how to get this game to do much until having it in the house, and even then, hasn't gotten the playfield to light a planet past Mars. It was picked up at TPF 2016 (from the guys at 1984 Arcade in Springfield, MO) in great condition (just like all their other games on display), other than one lug being broken off a switch inside the coin door and a little bit of jury rigging to the right flipper that doesn't seem to affect gameplay at all. During the teardown of TPF 2016 after the conclusion of the show, someone was overheard commenting that this particular machine was in excellent condition.

Stargate (Gottlieb, 1994)

This one was also Stacy's idea (someday we'll get that Mousin' Around... someday :-P). It was also purchased at TPF 2016 in great condition. It plays fast and brutal. The scores on this game can be surprisingly high for a short game or surprisingly low for a long game, so it keeps you on your toes. Multiballs happen frequently and fast, and always feature slightly different tasks to complete each time.

In retrospect, Stargate seems to offer a deeper ruleset than good ol' Mousin' Around, and without looking like someone puked orange all over it either. Nevertheless, look out for the day when we get our hands on one and change the color scheme to not be so over the top on the cheese theme!


We have stepped up our collection of vintage computing devices in 2015. Well, this was really Stephen's thing to begin with, but with our shared enthusiasm for vintage video gaming, this seemed like a natural progression.

The computer collection currently consists of:

  • IBM 5150 - The original PC from 1981, which set the standard for the whole industry - with an IBM 5151 monochrome (green-screen) monitor. The one I have seems to have been assembled sometime in early 1984.
  • Amiga 500 - I would pick the Amiga line as the coolest computers of the mid-1980s.
  • Tandy 1000RLX - the one I've actually had since I was only five, in 1991. This one has a 20MB hard drive and a single 3.5" floppy drive.
  • Commodore 64 - The best-selling personal computer of all time. I have one that works, and another that seems completely broken.
  • Macintosh Plus - The third Mac ever released, from 1986. I disassembled the whole floppy disk drive and re-lubricated the eject mechanism so it would work properly and load interesting programs.
  • Apple //c (or iic or 2c or however you want to write it) - The best of the Apple 2 series, since it's extremely portable and the fastest one that utilizes the 6502 processor (albeit a 65C02, which supports a couple dozen additional CPU instructions)
  • IBM 5162 (the PC-XT/286) - Despite when Wikipedia says IBM stopped producing their original line of PCs in favor of PS/1 & PS/2, this one actually shows a date stamp of 10/20/1987 on the inside. Stephen wishes to attempt restoring this and then to sell it.
  • TI 955 Workstation - A 286 IBM-compatible computer, as described in InfoWorld Magazine 10/19/1987. Stephen wishes to attempt restoring this and then to sell it.
  • Another TI 955 Workstation - This one had its cover removed and lost to time. Maybe another cover could be found or fabricated.
  • IBM PS/2 Model 25 286 - The low-end version of IBM's PS/2 system, but enhanced with a 286 processor. Resembles a Mac (only way less hip) with its unibody case.
  • HP Vectra ES/12 - 1987 workstation with 286 processor. Fully complete set. Stephen wishes to attempt restoring this and then to sell it.

Supporting these computers is a whole cache (:-P) of other hardware, including many expansion cards from various eras, power supplies & adapters, tons of floppy disks & extra drives, memory, some spare monitors, and things I'm researching that could possibly become compatible with any of these machines (such as a Bernoulli drive or a SCSI CD-ROM or hard drive for the Mac Plus). The effort to interface with and modernize these machines is also of interest, as we research ways to use SD cards to emulate floppy drives, getting them on the Internet, and taking advantage of all the processor & memory upgrades we see useful -- including potentially a project to utilize 30-pin SIMM memory on a to-be-designed expansion card for the IBM 5150 to replace the DIP-chip memory.

And then, of course, there are those computers that straddle the line of being game consoles, and then the pure game consoles.